Dance Definitions

You know when a definition starts with “Rhythmically” a lot of people stop there. One of the most common responses is “I’ve got two left feet”. But that’s okay, over the years I’ve learned to take the shoe off of the real left foot. Then at the end of the group lesson and after everyone stepping on toes, the student knows for certain which foot is the real left! JUST KIDDING! This page is for definitions of dance styles; if you think you are not rhythmical, then take a look at my Reasons to Dance.

Well, I’ve spent the last two days looking up definitions and examples of how to define dances - unsuccessfully. I’ve looked up classic dictionary definitions. I’ve looked up definitions from several dance studios to see how they tried. Almost everyone ends up giving a history of the dance in an attempt to define the dance. So, I’ve decided that short meaningless definitions with short meaningful videos are best.


OK, have you ever been given a definition of a word in a technical class? And, after you read it, hear it, and even do the research, you still look at your classmates and say: “Uh! I still don’t get it.”


Anyway, I've decided that short definitions with videos are best. I’ll give you an example of some basic patterns followed by an example of more complex patterns. NOW, with that said. In my humble, yet right opinion, we learn the basics very well so that we learn to dance just a little outside the box – with a smile. So…



Swing dances

West Coast Swing, East Coast Swing (also called Jitterbug), and Lindy are the most common swing dances in the Houston and Clear Lake area. I won’t include Lindy because I really haven’t learned enough Lindy to comfortably teach it. OK, it’s one dance I learned a long time ago and decided my knees could handle it.


West Coast Swing

It has two basic timings. The first one is 6 beats and is called out by instructors as Slow-Slow, Quick-Quick-Slow, Quick-Quick-Slow (or Walk-Walk, Tri-ple-Step, An-chor-Step or 1-2, 3&4, 5&6). The second basic timing is eight beats and has an extra Walk, Walk after the first Quick-Quick-Slow. So it ends up being Slow-Slow, Quick-Quick-Slow, Slow-Slow, Quick-Quick-Slow (or Walk-Walk, Tri-ple-Step, Walk-Walk, An-chor-Step or 1-2, 3&4, 5-6, 7&8). It is most often danced to blues, pop, and smooth jazz.  Heeeeeeeeere’s the Video (said like Heeeeeeeere’s Johnny – only that Johnny has two syllabus and Video has three, uh never mind. I digress.

Michael Stephens dancing west coast swing to pop music.Michael Stephens dancing west coast swing to jazz music.


East Coast Swing

It has one basic timing of 6 beats. The instructor typically calls it out as Tri-ple-Step, Tri-ple-Step, Rock-Step (or Quick-Quick-Slow, Quick-Quick-Slow, Rock-Step or 1&2, 3&4, 5-6). It is most often danced to the faster music of many genres. OK, I’m depressed! I wanted to quote Ed Sullivan to introduce the next video. I looked him up on the web hoping for the exact way he introduced his acts. What did I find? When his shows began and ended. I feel old… Not that I’m old enough to ever have seen his “shoooooooe”. If you don’t get this, I’m really depressed! Video coming soon!



Country & Western Dances

I’m going to include the dances that we all do if we go the C&W bars here in Houston. These include Two-Step, Polka, East Coast Swing, West Coast Swing, Night Club, Waltz, and Cha-Cha (although you’ll see people dancing West Coast and Polka when the Cha is played). Now you realize that these are the dances being danced prior to 11:00 on Fridays and Saturdays. After 11:00, we typically see many drunken people on the floor with beers trying to get to know there dance partners even better. So what we see in often interesting – and sometimes dangerous and painful looking.



It has one basic timing of 4 beats. The instructor typically calls it out as Slow-Slow, Quick-Quick-Slow (it is RARELY called by any other vernacular – neat word, uh? For the enthusiast, its timing is 1-2, 3&4). If you want to learn a Country dance, this is the first one to learn. It’s the Ford of the C&A dances. Unless you’re a Chevy fan, then it’s the Chevy of the C&W dances. Unless you’re a Dodge fan, then it’s the Plymouth (except that Plymouth was discontinued in 2001 so that’s not a good example… well, anyway, you get the idea).

Michael Stephens dancing two step.



It also has one basic rhythm of 4 beats. The instructor typically calls it out as Quick-Quick-Slow, Quick-Quick-Slow (or 1&2, 3&4). This is often the second C&W dance that you learn – mostly because it has most of the same patterns that Two-Step. Gentlemen, if you want impress the very novice lady dancer, Polka is an easily leadable dance. I doubt you’ll impress her enough to get her telephone number; you still need humor, good looks, and personality to do that. So smile while you’re dancing, stand up straight, hold in your stomach, talk a little bit about your yacht (even if you don’t have one), look into her eyes (not into her best friends), did I say smile? In fact, forget everything, just dance a good lead and smile.  

Michael Stephens dancing polka.


Night Club Two-Step

It has a basic timing of 4 beats. The instructor typically calls it out as Slow, Quick-Quick, Slow, Quick-Quick. Some areas of the country start out with a Quick instead of a slow, but I prefer the slow first (it is also RARELY called by any other argot – ok, I got thesaurus happy? But again, for the enthusiast, its timing is 1, 2-&, 3, 4-&). It is most often danced to the slow music of many genres (except Latin where you would dance Rumba). In most bars, this is where you dance the buckle-rubbing dance (except after 11:00 when many people are drunk) – typically after the West Coast Swing (yes, the DJs often play music in a specific order).

Michael Stephens dancing night club two step.



It has a basic timing of 6 beats, unless I’m playing it on the piano; then I have a tendency to add a beat here and there (fortunately, you’re not dancing to my piano playing – just the song on the speakers and our victim [I mean dance partner] listening to us singing along. Yes, I sing also… Um, I’m talking too much again, uh?). The instructor typically calls this out as ONE-two-three, ONE-two-three (occasionally, it is called by ONE-two-three, FOUR-five-six). It is most often danced to… well, waltz music. It’s written in 3/4 timing while, with very few exceptions, most other music is written in 4/4 timing.



It has a basic timing of 8 beats. The instructor typically calls this out as 1-2-3-4&, 1-2-3-4& (some instructors call 1-2, Cha-Cha-Cha – or something like that). I placed the Cha-Cha here in C&W for two reasons. First, C&W does have music with a Latin feel to it. Secondly, well, I can’t remember right now, so I really only have one reason. Oh, wait, I remember: Since I’m teaching dance in the Houston/Clear Lake area of Texas, I teach it where it is most used. So, it is most often danced to the Latin feeling C&W music.



Latin Dances

I’m going to include only the dances that I teach AND have plenty of places to dance. For instance, I love Rumba music as well as the dance. It’s just that there’s no place to go dance them unless you go to the occasional dance studio. So, we have Cha-Cha, Salsa, and merengue.



Like Cha-Cha, it has a basic timing of 8 beats. The instructor typically calls this out as 1-2-3, 5-6-7 (or Quick-Quick-Slow, Quick-Quick-Slow). Salsa is danced to fairly fast to fast Latin music. To me, Latin music is best described as the type of music that not only makes the toes tap, but it wants to make your hips move. Okay, for some people (especially men), the hips just try to move creating an interesting body display. But, that’s why we take dance lessons… 



This also has a basic timing of 8 beats. The instructor typically calls this out as 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8. Basically, this dance is walk to the side and walk to the side, and repeat 4 more times. merengue is danced to VERY fast Latin music. It’s a cool dance because it’s easy to learn so that you can use it at parties (especially New Year's and Valentine’s parties) when they play that “latiny” stuff to which no one is dancing.



Other Dances

There are probably thousands of types of other dances. And, just in case you’re wondering, I don’t know them all. OK, I don’t many of them.  But there are two that people always love to learn more about. The first is Slow Dancing and the second is Dirty Dancing. 


Slow Dancing

This is the very basic of dances. This is the standing in the middle of the gym at the school dance holding your date – moving back and forth, holding her/him close. It’s just that this can be one of the most fun dances. Two people moving as one feeling each others motions… Whew, my palms are starting to sweat. Anyway, this is where we get better at leading and following simple movements which leads us to being better dancers – in general. 


Dirty Dancing

Dirty Dancing can be applied to ANY style of dance. I have specifically taught this as Dirty Jitterbug, Dirty Whip, and Dirty Slow Dance. I have personally danced this as dirty, uh, well, um… dirty other dances. I typically teach this as Dirty Slow Dance. It’s not meant for the faint of heart. This takes Slow Dancing up a level or two.